Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Dispute settlement

This page is a gateway to material on:

  • Disputes in general, and how they are handled in the WTO and its Dispute Settlement Body
  • Negotiations on the Dispute Settlement Understanding
  • Individual dispute cases: The disputes

The WTO’s procedure for resolving trade quarrels under the Dispute Settlement Understanding is vital for enforcing the rules and therefore for ensuring that trade flows smoothly.

A dispute arises when a member government believes another member government is violating an agreement or a commitment that it has made in the WTO. The authors of these agreements are the member governments themselves — the agreements are the outcome of negotiations among members. Ultimate responsibility for settling disputes also lies with member governments, through the Dispute Settlement Body.

A web page exists for each of the disputes brought to the WTO. The search facilities below provide links to these pages.

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DISPUTE SETTLEMENT BODY MEETINGS
Latest proposed agenda
(Document code WT/DSB/W/*)

 

> See Dispute settlement news archive for older meetings

 


News    back to top

  

Search Documents Online
These links open a new window: allow a moment for the results to appear.

quick help with downloading
> comprehensive help on Documents Online

  • Recent dispute documents (Document code WT/DS* or TN/DS*)
    1. Choose: the last 
    2. > search

  

Introduction to dispute settlement in the WTO    back to top

How does the WTO settle disputes?
This link takes you to the section on disputes in the WTO guide, “Understanding the WTO”. Use your browser's “back” button to return to this page.

Interactive course: The WTO dispute settlement system

> Video: Case studies of WTO dispute settlement

> Secretariat’s informal consultations concerning the panel process

  

The legal basis    back to top

The Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) — the main WTO agreement on settling disputes. Like the bulk of the WTO agreements, this was one of the outcomes of the Uruguay Round negotiations.

Rules of Conduct on rules and procedures for settling disputes, adopted in December 1996

Working Procedures for Appellate Review

 

The Dispute Settlement Body    back to top

Made up of all member governments, usually represented by ambassadors or equivalent. The current chairperson is Amb. Fernando DE MATEO (Mexico).

> 2013 In WTO Dispute Settlement : Reflections from Jonathan Fried, DSB Chair

> Dispute Settlement Body Developments in 2012: H.E. Mr Shahid BASHIR Chairperson of the DSB 2012-2013

> Chair looks back at developments in dispute settlement in 2011
In a speech delivered on 13 March 2012, H.E. Elin ěsteb° Johansen looked back at developments in the WTO’s dispute settlement system in 2011 during her chairmanship of the Dispute Settlement Body.

> DSB Developments in 2010

 

Search Documents Online
DSB documents use the code WT/DSB/* (where * takes additional values)
These links open a new window: allow a moment for the results to appear.

quick help with downloading
> comprehensive help on Documents Online

  • Minutes of Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) meetings (Document code WT/DSB/M/*)
      > search
  • Annual reports of the DSB (document code WT/DSB/* and keyword “Annual report”)     > search
  • Annual overview of the state of play of WTO disputes
    Addendum to the DSB annual report. Reflects the state of play of WTO disputes from 1 January 1995 to a given date each year. In table format, allowing the reader to identify the main stages of the dispute settlement process relating to each case and the relevant documents issued. (document code WT/DSB/* and keyword “Overview of the State of Play of WTO Disputes”)     > search

> See also: cases update, above 

 

The Appellate Body    back to top

The permanent seven-member Appellate Body is set up by the Dispute Settlement Body and broadly represents the range of WTO membership. Members of the Appellate Body have four-year terms. They have to be individuals with recognized standing in the field of law and international trade, not affiliated with any government.

 

Negotiations on the Dispute Settlement Understanding    back to top

A 1994 Ministerial Decision says dispute settlement rules should be reviewed by 1 January 1999. The review started in the Dispute Settlement Body in 1997. The deadline was extended to 31 July 1999, but there was no agreement.

Click for Doha Development Agenda gatewayIn November 2001, at the Doha Ministerial Conference, member governments agreed to negotiate to improve and clarify the Dispute Settlement Understanding. These negotiations take place in special sessions of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). Current chairperson of DSB Special Sessions.

Search Documents Online
DSU negotiations documents use the code TN/DS/* (where * takes additional values)
These links open a new window: allow a moment for the results to appear.

quick help with downloading
> comprehensive help on Documents Online

  • Reports by the Chairman to the Trade Negotiations Committee (Document code TN/DS/* and keyword “Report by the Chairman”)     > search
  • Minutes of the Special Sessions (Document code TN/DS/M/*)     > search
  • Working documents of the DSU negotiations (Document code TN/DS/W/*)     > search
  • The DSB decision to extend the review deadline, December 1998 (Document code WT/DSB/M/52)     > search

   

The disputes    back to top

A web page exists for each of the disputes brought to the WTO. The search facilities below provide links to these pages.

Buy the book: Dispute Settlement Reports from Cambridge University Press (co-publisher). This is the only WTO-authorized paginated version.

  

Links    back to top

The WTO is not responsible for the content of external sites

 

 EVENTS 

Why is the WTO Dispute Settlement System so Successful?
Valerie Hughes, LAD Director
ANZSIL Conference,
Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand (6 July 2012)

Legal Affairs Division (LAD) at 30
WTO Conference
Geneva (28 June 2012)

 

 

 PUBLICATIONS 

Publications flyer

 

The WTO Dispute Settlement Procedures — Third Edition
  

WTO Dispute Settlement: One-Page Case Summaries (2013 edition)
  

Analytical Index
Find jurisprudence by Agreement, Article or index term
  

Appellate Body Repertory of Reports and Awards 1995-2010
  

> Buy the book: Dispute Settlement Reports from Cambridge University Press (co-publisher). This is the only WTO-authorized paginated version.